ARE YOU HAPPIER?                  

By Steve Wesley, Manager – Credit Counselling Services of Peterborough

Are you happier?

Much has been said about the benefits and pitfalls of consumerism.  I recently heard a financial analyst comment that as a society we have never had things so good.  Everyone can afford a wide screen plasma TV, cellphone, computer etc.etc.etc. These are things our grandparents or for that matter even the creators of The Jetsons never dreamed of.

But has our quality of life as individuals and as a society really been enhanced by all of this? Are you really leading a happier life than your grandparents did? Are you more financially secure than you were a decade ago? Recent statistics show that Canadians owe approximately $1.70 for every dollar they earn with a total nationwide household debt totaling 2.13 trillion dollars. For comparison, the U.S. ratio in 2007 was $1.77 just before the market crash.  It has become evident that all of this “must have” purchasing comes with a heavy price and personal risk.

It’s no secret that financial insecurity and high personal debt leads to greater personal and family stress.  This, in turn, can result in lost time at work and can even result in a multitude of health issues. As Credit Counsellors we see this on a daily basis with our clients.  We see intelligent, hardworking and responsible individuals who have experienced sudden, unexpected life changes and which have interrupted their ability to keep their monthly debt payments up to date.  Where am I going with all of this?  Let’s talk about another current buzzword and concept called “mindfulness”.

Financial mindfulness is being aware of the psychological factors and external pressures which are creating the desire to acquire a certain item. So next time you are considering upgrading or purchasing any consumer item, ask yourself;, is this a need or a want and would I be buying this now if I hadn’t recently watched an advertisement for it? Was the advertisement really about the item itself or was it perhaps about the advertisements’ implied lifestyle associated with the item? Am I buying this with money I have already saved or will I need to use my credit card?  How many hours did I have to work in order pay for this and finally, would I sleep better at night if I instead put the money into my rainy day savings account? Are there emotional issues in my life that might be causing me to purchase things which give me a feeling of instant gratification?

Financial mindfulness means allowing yourself at least an extra day or even an extra week to reflect on what the effects of making a large purchase will mean to your budget and ability to pay for other necessities of life. Will this ‘must have treasure’ end up in next year’s yard sale? Perhaps it’s worth remembering the famous quotation of Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. In other words, being aware of your spending habits now can help you attain financial security in the future. Prevention can come in different ways and an  important first step can be made by sitting  down with a trusted personal financial counsellor to examine your income, monthly expenses and current consumer debts.

Remember that, despite our best intentions none of us can see, with any certainty, into the future. But you can obtain professional help at Credit Counselling Services of Peterborough, a program of CCRC, at 705-743-2272 or look us up online at Being mindful of your purchasing really can result in a happier life.



 For information on managing debt, setting up a monthly budget, or consumer credit issues call Credit Counseling Services of Peterborough, a program of Community Counselling & Resource Centre, a United Way funded agency. 1 (800) 274-1611 or (705) 743-2272 or